Abbot Pass Hut – Extreme Maintenance (Parts I and II)
Editor's note: The summer of 2014 saw the completion of the second phase of a three-phase plan to renovate and upgrade the Abbot Pass Hut.
You could be forgiven for not knowing that this major renovation was taking place (two-thirds complete!), even if you visited the hut recently. The first phase, completed two summers ago, involved installing a new roof on the hut. The second phase, completed last month, was a “re-pointing” of the exterior masonry (basically scraping out the old mortar and applying new mortar). These were both enormous undertakings but they’re not upgrades you would typically notice unless someone pointed them out to you.
Luckily, we’ve got some photos to show you what we’ve been up to.
Phase I – New Roof, Summer, 2012
Abbot Pass has seen big-scale renovations over the years, notably in 1969, 1986 and 1993. Annual servicing and minor upgrades kept the hut in good shape through the years in between renos but somewhere along the way the roof started leaking.
If you’re not familiar with Abbot Pass (the place), it’s the col between Mts Victoria and Lefroy in Banff National Park, the mountains that are the backdrop of the famous pictures of Lake Louise. The hut itself is a stone structure, built in 1922 with materials transported up to almost 10,000 feet by raft, packhorse and people. It’s been sitting there on the Alberta/British Columbia border, straddling the Continental Divide and getting hammered by extreme mountain weather for over 90 years so a leaky roof and some wear and tear are not totally unexpected.
In September of 2012 the roof was stripped, shored up and completely replaced by the ACC maintenance team, professional roofers from Canmore and Club volunteers. Everyone working on the roof had to be roped in, not just to keep them from falling off the hut, but from falling off the mountain.
There were high winds and some cold days, but the weather held and by the end of September the job was completed.
Phase II – Masonry Re-pointing, Summer, 2014
Abbot Pass Hut was designated a National Historic Site in 1992 so when it was decided that the masonry required re-pointing, Parks Canada sent their best masons – guys who work on restoring heritage structures across Canada – to work on the job.
Old mortar was scraped, chiseled and drilled out of the cracks between the stonework and was replaced with new mortar that will dry and fade to match the colour of the original.
The new mortar should hold the stones together and keep the hut structurally sound for the next 90 years. You can see more photos and read about the re-pointing job on Parks Canada Facebook page.
Phase III – Interior Renovation, Planned for Summer, 2016
Roofing and foundation work are not glamorous jobs but if you take the long view on taking care of your things, they’re about as important as jobs get. But what about the interior? Phase three, a complete interior refit of the hut, will be a totally different story and we promise that you’re going to notice that one right away. The job is planned for summer 2016 and while the details aren’t totally nailed down, we do know it’s going to be a complete job with an eye toward restoring the original aesthetic (think custom-built cabinetry and fixtures that recreate the 1922 look along with modern flooring and insulation and windows).
Extreme Maintenance: it’s kind of the opposite of an extreme makeover – the hut is being lovingly restored to it’s original form, it’s just the setting and working conditions that are extreme. And the ACC and Parks Canada maintenance teams, those folks are pretty extreme too.
The ACC operates and maintains 32 backcountry huts, but the Abbot Pass Hut is something that’s a bit extra special to us.
Have you been to Abbot Pass Hut?
What do you remember about the hut? Do you have any awesome photos you'd be willing to share with us? Please leave a message below.
ACC Facilities Fund - Ongoing Work
The ACC’s hut system is the largest in North America and operating and maintaining this hut system is a large undertaking physically, logistically and financially. If you would like to make a donation to the ACC - and have your contribution directed towards these types of projects - please see the ACC Facilities Fund.